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Oncology expert calls for detecting first cancer cell

By Our Reporter
April 17, 2021

LAHORE: “The First Cell”, latest book by Dr Azra Raza, Professor of Medicine at Columbia University, was launched by the Afkar-e-Taza ThinkFest Online. Dr Azra Raza was in conversation with the CEO of Shaukat Khanum Hospitals, Dr Aasim Yusuf.

Explaining the crux of her argument Dr Raza, who has been a practicing oncologist and cancer researcher for over four decades, noted that “We are obsessed with curing cancer but forget the patient.” This lack of empathy she said was criminal.

Speaking from her personal experience where her husband suffered and died from cancer, Dr Raza said “Unless we convey the extent of human anguish, we would not be doing justice to the patient or to the field.” Countering the long-held belief, Dr Raza emphasised “We are trained not to get involved, but the patients demand empathy.”

Dr Azra Raza then argued that oncology was successfully treating 60% of all patients of cancer, but the 40% left behind had little hope. “We are still using the decades old techniques of slash, poison and burn. This is untenable,” she said. Noting that trillions have been spent on cancer research in the last few decades, Dr Raza said that no new insights have been found which either prevent cancer or improve its treatment.

Dr Raza argued that in order to contain cancer “We must locate the first cell, without which we will never be able to overcome it.” She pointed out this was not a new or radical idea, but an idea which had fallen by the way side in cancer research. “We need to develop the technology which detects the first cell of cancer so that we can cure people even before they reach stage 1,” she exclaimed.

Speaking of the future direction, Dr Raza underscored that young scientists hold the key to breakthrough research. However, since promotions and grant do not come where you take risks, few are eager to be experimental.

This attitude, she lamented and concluded that a wholesale attitude towards cancer and cancer research needed to be changed if we are to ever control this deadly disease.